I Think it’s Time

I have very much enjoyed our little Martian adventure, and I want to thank everyone who has participated in our discussion so far; you are all amazing!

Yet I think we have just about arrived at the time when we need to pause and regroup. Here’s what I’m seeing:

At the beginning, everyone seemed to think we didn’t really need to take anything with us to Mars for worship, because worship should be a fairly simple matter and here on Earth, we’ve added way too much to it; the idea of simple worship seemed to be the dominant thought. Yet as the discussion progressed, it seemed that several of us realized that there were indeed a few things we might need for worship after all. We need music, and maybe we need a few other things like communion and we should really list our dislikes about church so we can avoid doing anything we dislike, but then, we might need some ritual, because some like that, and we need lots of praise, but it can’t be loud, because some don’t like loud music and chit chat, because we need more time for prayer, but not too much…

OK fine: You caught me. Yes, I pulled some of that out of context, but only so we could get to the point quickly.

I have done this in live classes several times, and I let it get to the place where people started to become unhappy with each other; I don’t think this is the right medium to go that far, however.

The Biblical study of worship can be tricky. It isn’t tricky because it’s all that complicated, it’s tricky because there are several factors that come together making it very easy to become confused. For instance, the English word “worship” appears 75 times in the NIV, but three different Greek words translate as “worship” in English, and they have three different meanings.

There are many different ways for a congregation to conduct worship. Some are very formal and ritualistic, some a sort of formal, yet quite traditional, while others are more relaxed and non-traditional, and still others are contemporary and almost anti-traditional.

So, which is right?

Many people today are in the habit of using the word “worship” in place of the word “music”: Are music and worship the same thing?

There is more than one kind of worship mentioned in the New Testament, I’ll mention 3 of them: Individual private worship, family worship and corporate worship (Church worship service).  Would you be surprised if I told you that individual worship is spoken of in the New Testament a great deal more than corporate worship? Well, it most assuredly is. Can you imagine what would happen if a person took their personal worship practices and preferences and sought tom impose them on the corporate worship of the entire congregation?

There are 2 possible outcomes: 1. Unity in the church is broken and the church splits. 2. Unity in the church is broken and the congregation drifts away and the church dies.

Worship, you see, is a serious topic.

Years ago, I was asked to pick up a couple of undergrad courses on worship: Intro to Worship 1 and Intro to Worship 2. It always came as a shock to the students that almost everything they knew about worship was not from Scripture. Sadly, most of what we think we know on the subject comes from culture, tradition and custom and are entirely of human invention.

Yep, worship is a tricky subject.

Why do we have so many different traditions, customs and styles of worship? So many denominations and non-denominations?

Because it always seems to come down to what people like and don’t like. Yet God casts a very broad net, and He doesn’t want anyone to perish, not even the ones with whom I disagree!

Hard to believe, but it’s true.

Next time, I’ll bring some more information into this Quest of ours, and let’s see if we can come up with a Scriptural foundation upon which to build an understanding of worship that we can use to at least understand if we can come together to a consensus on which to proceed.

So, my next question is this:

Other than everyone just agreeing with me on everything, or with you, what would it take for all of us who seek to follow Jesus Christ, to come together as One in the Body of Christ− is that even possible?

OK, it’s your turn…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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31 Responses to I Think it’s Time

  1. I don’t think it is humanly possible because of the human ego. I could already see 2 or 3 splitting off to worship in a different Mars crater and 2 or 3 others splitting off to worship on one of Mars’ mountains (does Mars have mountains?). But, it should be our goal. The big question is, “How much of our ego can we get out of the way? It was ego that led to the first sin. I sometimes ask myself, “Are we worshipping God or ourselves?”.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Great points! I’ve always been something of an optimist, but this is a tough one. Paul seemed to spend a lot of his time telling people about humility and putting “self” to death; clearly, if we can’t do that, we’ll not likely find unity.

  2. Rebeca Jones says:

    “Other than everyone just agreeing with me on everything, or with you, what would it take for all of us who seek to follow Jesus Christ, to come together as One in the Body of Christ− is that even possible?”

    The first word that came to mind as I read this is humility. It takes humility to concede that we may not be right on all counts, to ponder that someone very different from us may have something spiritually valid, even spiritually necessary, to offer.

    And yes, not only do I think unity is possible, I think maybe our Father is waiting for us to figure this very thing out! Agreement on all things is not only not necessary, it’s not desirable. If we’re never stretched or inspired, never exposed to different ways of doing things, how can we ever hope to grow?

    Does our Father not speak to each of us individually, in the ways we uniquely can ‘hear’ best? Does He not love us with a personal love, interacting with us in ways that are tailored to our specific needs and personalities? We do that for our own children, yes? How much more then does our Father reach us and teach us personally?

    What if the members of our little church could each, in turn, share worship as they understand it? As they hear God best? What if we could not just ‘agree to disagree’, but instead actually use those differences to praise our Father who meets us where we’re at? Who knows, perhaps in so doing, we would adopt spiritual practices that would enlarge our understanding of Him and thus increase our love for one another. Isn’t that what heaven on Earth, or in this case Mars, would look like? We’d be living in the Kingdom now!

    • Don Merritt says:

      Excellent observations Rebeca; I think you’re on to something. If I might add something to your recipe… We take your 2 teaspoons of humility, and add to that 2 more of love, and then a tablespoon of dealing with “self” and I think we’re probably about there. And since we are commanded to do those things anyway, they must be possible.

      • Rebeca Jones says:

        It’s all intertwined, is it not? We cannot love as Christ commands without humility and we only grow in humility as we deal with ‘self’. I suppose dealing with ‘self’ comes first though, eh?

        I think you’re right on in saying these things are possible. Why else would we be commanded to love, to put others above ourselves, to submit one to another? I don’t think our Father asks more of us than He’s willing to help us achieve. Is unity easy? No! Will it be perfectly done? Not as long as we struggle with ego. Is it attainable? Through the leading and grace of the Holy Spirit working in us, YES!

    • We can have all kinds of different opinions on lots of things about Christianity and that’s okay – death-bed repentance, 1000-year reign, number of angels fitting on the tip of a pin, etc., etc. The only things we have to agree on is how to worship because we do that together. Any more I think we should get rid of all our church buildings and start meeting in homes. Of course, on earth it will never happen. Too many egos would be crushed – titles all out the window. Mars would be a good start. Shall we? How much are tickets?

  3. Tom says:

    I agree with Kathryn. Our self ego will get in the way at some point. It would work for a time, but someone along the line will disagree and split off. Just like nations in this world cannot fully agree, people won’t in a church either, till we get to heaven. Sad, but true. Sin gets in the way.

  4. Pete says:

    Well I agree with most of the above. Humility is the key. It’s listed as the first of the Beatitudes for a reason. If we cannot put aside our pride and our own selfish desires and ambitions then we will never be able to come together in unity.

  5. paulfg says:

    Could “dying to self” ever be viewed as a positive – as “bringing self to life”? We seem fixated by deprivation of self – dying to self – dead to sin – all of that “being lifeless to “something living”.

    Imagine each bringing “self to life” … what would that look like? The closest “drawing close” I have experienced have not been in the same place, the same order, the same format, the same length of “worship”,the same anything and everything. But there has always been something that was the same. My own bringing my own self with life (not death) – an open-ness – an individual-ness – a joyfulness and curiosity.

    Physical stuff … comfort blanket stuff … music or no music … lots of prayer or little prayer … lots of bible or little bible … communion or no communion … none of that has ever been a must or must not. What has always been a must is a bunch of people invited to draw close … who are allowed to draw close … and who are then allowed to share space in the presence of their own God.

    A God who is big enough to be the same but perfectly unique for each and at the same time in the same place. That for me is worship.

  6. If we got rid of our church buildings, we’d get rid of 99% of the “organized religion” rebuffing. To most people “organized religion” means politics. But people aren’t about to give up their leadership positions to let it happen.

  7. Mel Wild says:

    I believe God loves diversity, but not divisiveness. To your point about worship, I like to think of it as “pruning back to love.” The local church is a living organism that needs periodic adjustment when things get out of whack (See Rev.2:1-5). We also tend to “flock together” to certain styles, which isn’t necessarily bad. One may worship very differently than the other, both can be valid. It may even include singing! The important point is, does it produce an atmosphere of self-giving, other-centered love for one another? That’s what identifies us as Jesus followers and is very compelling to the world Jesus loves (John 13:35).

  8. Pingback: Unconditional love is | Just me being curious

  9. Beth Ann says:

    To have a group that would come together to worship our Lord and not have any conflict would be heavenly :). After giving this much thought I don’t think it would happen. Conflict is bound to happen. We have been raised in different churches with different ideas on what is considered worship. You would have to find out where everyone is in their faith walk, because not everyone who may state they are a christian would be able to “die to self” or even know what that means. Then there are the different beliefs on communion, baptism, etc, etc. It would take much “dying” to get over all the hurdles.
    No, I don’t see this happening. For almost 2000 years man has messed with the church. I can’t see us getting it right. We have too much baggage and we are all sinful creatures.

  10. Don ~ I saw this yesterday but was unable to take the time to read it. Thank God I remembered it and had saved it. You are one sly guy. This discussion reminds me of the two Jews stranded on a deserted island. When rescued, the rescuers asked about why they had built three synagogues. They each pointed out the one synagogue they attended and admitted that the third was the one they both used to attend.

  11. I have been giving away my book for some time on this subject, except mine took place on a deserted island. Well, almost deserted. If anyone wants one, just request it here: https://1st-century-christianity.com/ If it would sidetrack what you’re trying to do, Don, just delete this.

  12. Barbara Lane says:

    I have had company this week so I’m late in reading all this, but I loved Rebeca’s comment: “What if we could not just ‘agree to disagree’, but instead actually use those differences to praise our Father who meets us where we’re at? Who knows, perhaps in so doing, we would adopt spiritual practices that would enlarge our understanding of Him and thus increase our love for one another.” To go beyond “agree to disagree” and actually be willing to try someone’s else’s approach to worship – who knows what blessings we would find through that. I had a Catholic friend and we agreed to attend each other’s church a few times – not to try to convert each other to our own particular faith but to learn and appreciate each other’s faith. It was eye opening and we both came away realizing there is more than one way to worship God – and we gained a new appreciation for the other’s faith.

  13. davidlee45 says:

    Three verses I give to you, John 12:40 “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart and be converted, and I should heal them” (Scofield, 1909). Next verse; 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (Scofield, 1909). Last, but not least; John 14:6 “And Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”(Scofield, 1909). I believe that all denominations have strayed a good way from the simplicity that came into existence over 2,000 years ago in the 1st Century Church. How many churches have truly defined “the way” and attribute it to the path of righteousness that Jesus Christ taught, demonstrated, lived for and died for? Maybe we could encourage all of our churches through love to get back to the basics of the 1st century church spoken of in the Book of Acts. Because a great many prophecies are in play in this day and age. We know this to be true especially when we see the warnings to the churches in Revelations. Loved your post. We need Unity.

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